Marathoners’ gloom after race postponements

Sunday February 21 2021

Hopeful. Filex Chemonges finished third in Toronto two years ago with a time of 2:05:12. PHOTO/FILE.

By Allan Darren Kyeyune

There have been several confirmations that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will take place but many athletes are either struggling to get qualification or warm-up events.

Uganda has qualified a total 21 athletes of which 19 are runners and a number of them are struggling to have races abroad to shape them up for the trip to Asia.

Yet, the July 23 - August 8 Games in the Japanese capital only get closer. A number of events are still suffering the effects of the coronavirus with several restrictions and barriers in place.

Long-distance runner Jacob Kiplimo was meant to start his year at the Ras Al Khaimah Half-Marathon in UAE on Friday but the event was cancelled.

“Next month, I will go to Italy for cross-country,” the World Half-Marathon champion told this paper this week. Whereas the outdoor track season is yet to begin, it is the road runners facing it tough.

“Yeah, it is difficult with regards to marathons,” said Jurrie van der Velden of Global Sports Communication, who manages several Ugandan marathoners including 2012 Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich.


Dutchman Jurrie had made entries for national record holder Filex Chemonges, Jackson Kiprop and 2017 Dusseldorf Marathon winner Robert Chemonges at the Mumbai Marathon in India but the event has been pushed from today to May 30.

“Basically they postponed to May as it will be more likely to have a “complete” event which means a restricted number of fun runners as well as an elite component,” he explained.

Finding another race for the trio has since proved tough. “We are looking at alternatives, which are very hard to find,” Jurrie said.

Best times

And not that the races are completely out, some races are available but they are in countries that have stringent restrictions on foreigners for example the Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan which also takes place next Sunday.

“Lake Biwa will be restricted to Japanese residents only. Filex was on the list to run there but the government has tougher restrictions now,” added Jurrie.

Postponement of road events like marathons affects the runners in such a way that; one, they will likely not compete because a full 42km race before Tokyo as a body needs at least three months in between two marathons.  

Then, there are seven male marathoners who have run under the qualification time of two hours, 11 minutes and 30 seconds but Uganda has only three quota places at the 42km road event come August 8 in Sapporo.

To choose the trio, Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) is set to consider the best qualification times made by the seven in the windows from January 1, 2019 to April 5, 2020 and from December 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.

As it stands, Filex, Fred Musobo and Mutai are ahead of the more experienced Kiprotich and 2013 Mumbai Marathon champion Kiprop.

The latter pair had hoped they would have races within the remaining period of the Olympic qualification window to beat the present mathematics for slots.

The men’s marathon event has gifted Uganda five championship medals across the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Championships since 2012.

Athletics: Qualified for Tokyo so far

Women: Halima Nakaayi (800m), Winnie Nanyondo (800m & 1500m), Peruth Chemutai (3000m steeplechase), Stella Chesang & Sarah Chelangat (5000m), Juliet Chekwel (Marathon)

Men: Ronald Musagala (1500m), Albert Chemutai (3000m Steeplechase), Stephen Kissa (5000m), Jacob Kiplimo, Joshua Cheptegei & Abdallah Mande (10000m), *Fred Musobo, *Stephen Kiprotich, *Solomon Mutai, *Filex Chemonges, *Geoffrey Kusuro, *Jackson Kiprop & *Robert Chemonges (all Marathon)

*Only 3 can be allowed to compete